Why I Don’t Recommend Reusable Cotton Makeup Remover Pads

Why I Don’t Recommend Reusable Cotton Makeup Remover Pads

Like many people at the moment, I am always looking for more sustainable solutions. As someone pretty into makeup and skincare, I get through a fair amount of cotton pads each day, so it made sense for me to seek an alternative.

Posts about reusable cotton pads were doing the rounds on social media, so I decided to give them a go. While some people on Twitter and Instagram were buying packs of reusable cotton pads for only a few pounds, I really wanted this to be a long lasting solution, so chose something a little pricier so I could get better quality cotton.

However, while the concept is a great idea, ultimately, reusable cotton pads just haven’t worked for me

Using the Reusable Cotton Pads

The pads I chose were from Maca Valley, and described as Reusable Makeup Remover Pads, which also came with a Muslin Cloth.  The set comprises of 16 organic cotton and bamboo pads and one muslin cloth. The pads are double sided, with one side being a cotton cloth and the other side muslin.

Each pad is larger than your typical cotton pad, meaning that one of these reusable pads is about the equivalent of three disposable cotton pads. When it comes to getting your makeup off, these pads do a pretty good job.

The only thing to be careful with is pouring on the makeup remover liquid, as the pads aren’t the most absorbent, so anything you pour on it has a tendency of rolling off if you don’t let it settle for a few seconds. Other than that, using the cotton pads and muslin cloth is easy. Unfortunately, the cleaning process is a lot more difficult, and is the reason why I would not recommend these reusable cotton pads. 

Washing the Reusable Cotton Pads

The washing instructions for these cotton pads say to place the pads in the mesh bag and wash at 30-40 degrees Celsius. I had washed the first couple of cotton pads by hand in the sink right after using them, but they were never 100 percent clean, so I decided to wash all of the pads as described in the instructions.

However, after one round in the washing machine, none of the pads were clean. After a second go through the machine, I still wasn’t satisfied with the results. Some looked clean at first glance, but upon closer inspection were more grey than white, and clearly weren’t fully clean.

Couldn’t get them clean

Others were almost as dirty as when they went in the wash – particularly those which had lipstick or eyeliner on them. While I can understand that some makeup may be more likely to cause staining, these pads were advertised as makeup remover pads, so I would have expected them to be able to cope with makeup!

As the washing machine had not sufficiently cleaned them, I took to soaking the pads in the sink. I hand washed each of the pads with baby shampoo to try to shift some of the makeup, but this didn’t do a great deal. As a final attempt, I boiled the pads in a pan of water, so that they would at least be more sterile. 


As you can see, the amount of product that remains on the pads makes them pretty unusable. While a lot of the makeup has gone, the pads remain fairly grey and mucky looking, and some marks won’t shift at all.

Reusable Cotton Pads Before Washing


reusable cotton pads after washing

Reusable Cotton Pads After Washing

Drying the Reusable Cotton Pads

The next issue came from drying the pads. There are no instructions regarding how these pads should be dried on the packaging or online. I guessed that tumble drying would not work, so I only popped one pad in the dryer to test it. As I had anticipated, the Muslin side of the pad shrunk, making the cotton pad curl at the edges. It certainly didn’t become unusable, but it wouldn’t lie flat and you lost a fair amount of the Muslin size. 

I then left the rest of the pads to air dry, but after a day, they were just as damp as when I first put them out. Going away for the weekend, I left the pads out to dry around the house, but three days on, they were still a little damp. I popped the heating on for an hour or so to get them back to being usable. However, after four days lying around drying, some pads had collected a bit of dust, so were again unclean! How annoying!

Not easy to use

All in all, the cleaning and drying process was such a hassle, and I feel like I’ve wasted water and energy in the number of times I had to unsuccessfully wash them and have the heating on in June – neither of which really make these “reusable pads” environmentally friendly.

I’m sure these pads are good enough for some people, but I wanted an easy solution, and not to have to spend hours scrubbing these wipes. I’ll be putting these pads to some other use – probably re-purposed as a house cleaning cloth, but they simply aren’t clean enough to use on my face again! 


I’m still on the lookout for an eco-friendly makeup removing cloth now, so if you have any recommendations, please drop me a comment below! 



  1. 23rd July 2019 / 11:19 am

    Wow, I have a lot of respect for you – and this post! I’ve seen a lot of people on Instagram post about their reusable cotton pads – but I’m yet to see a review, which has put me off buying them.

    I’m so glad you posted this. The photo of them post-wash just shows how unhygienic it is to use them too. And that’s not even taking into account the germs we can’t see on the pads too!

    I think I might skip buying these altogether, and instead focus on other alternative methods of eco-friendly beauty i.e. buying reusable bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body care, which I can fill up at a local store.

  2. Joanna JOHNSON
    31st August 2019 / 7:15 pm

    Ive had exactly the same problem. I didnt even use mine for proper makeup but skincare and my the tint from my moisturiser/staining from my vitamin c serum and the actual dirt removed etc was enough to leave them unusable. Despite using a washing machine, a boil wash and even the ‘beauty blender’ microwave technique of using boiling water and cleanser/washing up liquid and heating for minutes…(with scrubbing) still left me with light staining (and now mishapped due to the scrubbing) after this first use! Imagine after weeks/months..

    For me part of the joy of wipes/pads is being able to know when your face is clean because the pad comes away from your face clean but if it is already completely stained there is no way to know if youre effectively removing all traces of products of your face.
    I feel that Ive actually done the environment a disservice by buying the product as I spent extra to get ones in a bamboo case etc for longevity but the amount of energy used to wash them when coupled with how few uses Im likely to get from them means Ive wasted more than if id stuck to disposable rounds. 😞

    • ellennoir
      2nd September 2019 / 8:55 am

      Thanks for your comment! I feel exactly the same about the environmental concerns, I washed them and soaked them twice and the amount of water wasted makes me wish I had never bothered with them!!

  3. Lucy
    27th November 2019 / 11:22 pm

    This is the most relatable post ever, I had exactly the same problems! There’s so many posts saying “just pop them in the washing machine” but nothing seemed to get them clean.

  4. Sasha
    3rd February 2020 / 12:40 am

    Maybe the best solution would be to buy a cleansing foam to wash off the makeup in the sink and no cotton pads needed. I’ve just bought some cotton pads but not used yet so it’s good to hear your experience on them. Can only hope it’s not as much hassle for me also.

    • ellennoir
      3rd February 2020 / 4:44 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I have started using more cleansers for removing my makeup, but I find it’s never enough to get off my (quite heavy) eye makeup!! Since this post, I’ve taken to crocheting my own reusable pads to cut down on the amount of cotton pads I use.

  5. Esra
    7th March 2020 / 7:32 am

    Wow you did write all my problems about how to use and how to clean this product is not so practical !!! The amount of water and energy I have used myself was crazy for those tiny pads .. trying to avoid plastic and getting plastic free pads and cotton pads becoming harder nowadays . But in the same time getting these pads trying to save plastic from oceans -seas , there wont be any water left as you need to use a lot of water to clean them … so no logic in those pads for me. I will use them for something else. Thank you for great writing ! Xxx

    • ellennoir
      9th March 2020 / 9:14 am

      Thanks for your comment! I agree about them not being as good for the environment as they are meant to be 🙂

  6. Amber
    7th March 2020 / 9:53 am

    I’ve found exactly the same problem! I expected them to just wash clean since they’re advertised as makeup remover pads, and I also rinsed all my ones right after using them as well, before machine washing them together in the bag. The stains just aren’t really coming out.

    • ellennoir
      9th March 2020 / 9:11 am

      Really glad it’s not just me! There have been so many rave reviews for them online I thought I was just being stupid with them, but nothing I have done has worked! Thanks for your comment 🙂

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